Concepts: What is Mana Whenua?

What is mana whenua? 

In a literal sense, mana whenua refers to the mana or power and authority that comes from the land. But it can also refer to beliefs, building relationships and developing a sense of belonging. 

Traditionally, Mana whenua refers to Māori territorial rights and the power associated with possession and occupation of tribal land. 

Tribal history and legends are based in the lands that iwi (the people) have occupied over generations. 

Historically, these lands have provided sustenance for the people, hospitality for guests and the ability to trade and barter.

How does mana whenua help create a learner-centred teaching environment?

In education mana whenua has come to represent the concept of belonging. A learner-centred teaching environment is one where people feel that they belong.  

Learners should feel a sense of belonging. They should feel that they literally and metaphorically have “a place to stand”. 

Your teaching and learning environment may or may not be a classroom, but it should be secure and safe, a place where each person is respected and accepted for who they are. 

This means that relationships (whanaungatanga), connections (whakapapa), and respect for rules, the rights of others and the proper ways of doing things (tikanga) are important. 

How can you create learner success through mana whenua?

These concepts that we’re discussing are not mutually exclusive.

Review the suggestions for Whanaungatanga and others, for example, as these will also likely help give effect to mana whenua. 

But here are some suggestions as well:

  1. Work together with your learners to develop a common set of values, rules and responsibilities that everyone abides by in your class, workplace or teaching environment.
  2. Look for opportunities for people to work together and collaborate on decision making or other tasks.
  3. Bring in experts from the local community who can provide advice on content and related matters as needed. 

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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